These are all tiny pieces of my life that only stand out to me because I think about them, but they highlight the differences in experiences that I am afforded based on my identities. They’re invisible until you speak about them.
Over the course of the last few year my personal life has hit a fairly large milestone. I got engaged and then married to a wonderful woman. Part of that process throughout and after the planning of our wedding pointed out some pretty large privileges that I hold, particularly as a heterosexual cisgender male in the US. And as part of one of my promises to myself, I thought I would briefly share some of the things that have been pointed out to me as privileges that I hold through my #PrivilegeStories series.
The first one that I think of is that I had no hesitation (other than keeping my life private) from sharing my engagement at work or when I’m out in the world. I have no reason to believe that sharing that I was engaged and now married to a woman would be detrimental to my life. I have no reason to believe that having pictures of myself and my partner(wife) on my desk would lead to any negative issues with students or colleagues.
In addition to talking about the engagement and wedding at work, we did not worry about how a vendor may react to our relationship because it can be viewed as “typical.” We are a white, heterosexual, cisgender couple. We don’t break any expectations that our vendors may have before they see us. While working with our vendors we didn’t have to look to any list to let us know if they would be ok working with us. We easily assumed that they would be fine and accept us as customers.
The second piece of this is around my wife’s decision about her name. She holds that a unique part of her identity is in her maiden name which I fully support. So as she continues to make her decision she has felt pressure from friends, acquaintances, and other people about making a decision which is not something that I have had to go through. She also, once a decision is made, may have to go through name changing processes that I do not have to consider at all. I have not been asked at all what my name will change to because people can assume that I won’t change my name.
These are all tiny pieces of my life that only stand out to me because I think about them, but they highlight the differences in experiences that I am afforded based on my identities. They’re invisible until you speak about them. They must be pointed out so that we know what happens to ourselves and how privileges warp our experiences without us noticing. We have to understand these privileges to understand the oppression that folks with subordinated identities face because if we don’t understand the privileges then we can’t see the full problem.
President Obama recently released his long form birth certificate, which (unsurprisingly) matched the birth certificate that he released on his website during the 2008 campaign. The pressure had been mounting over the last several weeks with Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and Newt Gingrich weighing in with additional pressure. @baratunde from Twitter posted a YouTube video describing his feelings which is beautifully spoken, poignant, and strikes at the heart of the argument. President Obama was coerced into proving that he belongs. He was coerced into proving that he is “one of us.” So our President released his long form certificate of living birth and justly exclaimed that we have better things to pay attention to.
Once that happened, Trump decided it was appropriate to announce to the press how proud he was of himself. The subtext of Trump’s exclamation is how a white man without any knowledge or experience in politics is able to pressure a man of color (the President of the United States of America) into proving his worth and belonging.
Shortly after President Obama’s announcement, Trump declared his pride. Then he asked for President Obama to release his high school records to prove that he belonged at Columbia and Harvard. Trump wants Obama to prove that he didn’t push aside deserving white people to get a racially charged leg up on his peers. Trump is making this argument in order to divide. Trump wants people to believe that President Obama doesn’t belong and hasn’t ever belonged. When no one has to question Trump’s belonging due to his appearance.
It is disheartening that Trump now wants President Obama to release his academic records. Our past President, George W. Bush, who had sub par academic performance and was able to attend Yale and Harvard due to old school affirmative action, known now as legacy. Former President Bush never had to prove his belonging in the Ivy League to the voting public. But now, Trump wants President Obama to prove that he belonged and that he wasn’t given a pass to join prestigious institutions because of his complexion.
I, like @baratunde, am disheartened and saddened that Trump was able to wield his privilege as he has. He was able to assert that he belongs and that the President of the United States of America, does not belong. This birtherism nonsense is another example of how we need to stand together and fight for the rights of those who are marginalized and pushed aside as less than in our society. We have to stand together because if we don’t we’ll be pushed back into the past.